Seven Reasons Why Corruption Reigns in Spain

Hardly a week goes by without news of another high-profile corruption scandal in Spain. Several theories seek to explain the phenomenon.

More than 85 percent of Spaniards believe corruption in Spain is “very widespread” or “fairly widespread,” according to a new opinion poll conducted by the Madrid-based Sociological Research Center (CIS), an agency that provides the Spanish government with polling data. Only 0.2 percent of those polled believe corruption is “not widespread” in Spain.

More surprising (or maybe not) is the poll’s finding that most Spaniards view their fellow countrymen as relatively ambivalent about the corruption in Spain. Of those polled, 41.5 percent say Spaniards are “fairly tolerant” and 20 percent say they are “very tolerant” of corruption in Spain. More than 50 percent of those surveyed say Spaniards “almost never” or “never” obey the law.

Sixty percent of Spaniards say corruption is just a “part of human nature” and more than one-third believe it is “part of Spanish culture.” More than 85 percent of Spaniards say corruption exists because the government allows it; only 9.3 percent believe citizens have a responsibility to fight against it.

The poll comes amid news of yet another high-profile corruption scandal in Spain. On July 1, Spanish police raided the offices of the Society of Authors and Publishers (SGAE), Spain’s leading collection agency for songwriters and composers, and arrested nine senior officials suspected of embezzling up to €400 million ($575 million) in royalties that should have been distributed to musicians and record companies.

One of the largest corruption scandals in Spanish history, the Caso Malaya, involves 95 municipal officials in southern Spain who are accused of taking more than €2 billion ($3 billion) in bribes in exchange for building permits and/or contracts to run municipal services in the glitzy resort town of Marbella. The case, which is truly mindboggling in scale and scope, has spawned dozens of other investigations into corruption on the Costa del Sol.

Another ongoing corruption scandal is the Caso Gürtel involving Francisco Correa (Correa means Belt in English or Gürtel in German), a businessman who paid millions in bribes (in the form of cash, luxury cars, designer clothing, Caribbean holidays, and lavish parties with prostitutes) to dozens of municipal officials and regional politicians, in exchange for building permits and contracts in Valencia, Madrid, Galicia and Castilla-León. Correa is suspected of accumulating a secret fortune worth at least €50 million ($70 million); he has not declared any income to the tax office since 1999.

The investigation into Correa and his network was launched by Spain’s so-called "Super-Judge" Baltasar Garzón, but he himself has since been fired for abuse of power and for failing to declare more than $200,000 in earnings from the Spanish tax authorities.

Other high-profile corruption cases in Spain abound: Caso Millet, involving the diversion of €35 million from the Palau de la Mùsica in Barcelona; Caso Palma Arena, involving 30 defendants accused of misappropriating tens of millions of euros linked to construction of a €100 million indoor sports stadium in Palma de Mallorca; Caso Pretoria, involving 20 defendants accused of receiving millions of euros in bribes in exchange for building permits in Catalonia.

Still other cases include: Caso Arona, Caso Baeza, Caso Can Domengue, Caso Castellón, Caso Ceclavín, Caso Ciudad Real, Caso de los EREs, Caso de Miguel, Caso El Rosario, Caso Faycán, Caso Granadilla, Caso Guisando, Caso Ibiza, Caso La Gomera, Caso Las Navas del Marqués, Caso Llucmajor, Caso Loja, Caso Martina Gelabert, Caso Mercasevilla, Caso Muxia, Caso Ocaña, Caso Ohanes, Caso Pájara, Caso Palma Arena, Caso Sevilla, Caso Salares, Caso Son Oms, Caso Sotohenar, Caso Torrejón de Ardoz, Caso Tudela de Duero, Caso Villanueva de Gómez, Caso Villanueva de la Cañada, Caso Vipasa, and Caso Zambrana.

Recent corruption-related police raids include: Operación Arcos, Operación Brisán, Operación Brugal, Operación Citur, Operación Costurero, Operación Harrag, Operación Molinos, Operación Orquesta, Operación Palmera, Operación Tequila, Operación Tótem, Operación Troya, and Operación Unión, among many others.